History strikes back

April 3 2012

Image of History strikes back

Picture: Christie's

The sale of the Raglan collection at Christie's has been halted by a last minute injunction. I viewed the sale on Friday, but by Saturday the shutters had come down, and the catalogue taken off the website. The sale was to include an impressive array of items from the 1st Lord Raglan (above), who fought at Waterloo and later commanded British forces in the Crimea. From the Independent:

An 11th-hour injunction has brought a dramatic halt to an auction by Christie's in London of a treasure trove of hundreds of artefacts relating to Waterloo, Wellington and the Crimea.

Heirs of the 1st Lord Raglan, who commanded troops at the Charge of the Light Brigade, are embroiled in a bitter battle over the ownership of military memorabilia. Legal action by one member of the family has cancelled plans by another to sell more than 300 objects, including arms and armour, furniture and works of art, tomorrow.

The treasures, which had been estimated to fetch £750,000, were to have been sold on behalf of the executors of Fitzroy John Somerset, 5th Lord Raglan, great-great-grandson of the 1st Baron (1788-1855), whose military career was at the right hand of Britain's greatest soldier, the first Duke of Wellington, for almost 40 years, during the Peninsular War, at Waterloo, and as private secretary, through to his command of British forces in the Crimean War.

I can't help thinking that the sale's cancellation is a Good Thing. The disputed will also covers the family seat, Cefntilla Court, which was donated to the first Lord Raglan and his heirs by public subscription as a gesture of thanks for his military service. So, on many levels, both collection and house should remain intact. And I'm enough of a romantic to want to see the Raglan family carry on living there (death tax allowing). Personally, I can't quite believe that the late Lord Raglan would not have wished it so.

Although the Christie's sale had some interesting things, it was quite obvious at the viewing that there were few really stellar items. After all, the sale was to be held at the South Kensington saleroom, and not King Street. There were lots of copies, oddities and items of sentimental value. It seemed clear to me that the value of the collection as a whole, both financial and historical, far outweighed that of the individual items.

There is, seperately from the family dispute, a campaign to save the collection. Knight Frank, who were marketing the house, have now removed it from their website.

ps - news of the injunction was revealed by me on Saturday over on Twitter. If you would like to know the latest art history titbits as they happen, you can sign up here

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